Ainge forever grateful for Thomas’ contributions to Celtics

Danny Ainge has nothing but respect for what Isaiah Thomas did during his time with the Celtics.

Thanks mostly because of the devastating hip injury he suffered in the 2017 season, Isaiah Thomas’ star has fallen more than a bit.

However, he is remembered fondly for the many contributions he made while with the Boston Celtics, whom he helped to seasons of 48 and 53 wins, becoming a two-time All-Star and leading the Eastern Conference in scoring in 2017.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has nothing but great things to say about the 5-foot-9 point guard, who agreed to sign with the Denver Nuggets on an NBA-minimum deal this week. The Nuggets will be the third time for which Thomas will suit up since the Celtics included him in the deal that brought Kyrie Irving to Cleveland last Aug. 22. Cleveland traded him as part of a deal with the Lakers that landed Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. on Feb. 8. The Lakers renounced his free-agent rights July 3.

“Isaiah added credibility to our team by making us a legitimate basketball team,” Ainge told Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “And on top of that, he was very entertaining.”

Ainge said Thomas’ fingerprints are on what the Celtics have become.

“But he was all-in. He was all-in for the team,” Ainge said. “He was recruiting Al Horford to come. He was recruiting Gordon Hayward to come to play with him. He’s earned a lot of respect in my eyes.”

Thomas’ impact was felt across the organization, Ainge said.

“I would say that Isaiah did a lot for our franchise,” Ainge told Bulpett. “He did a lot for the entire organization. He did a lot for our coaches and players. He took a lot of pressure off everybody because he was a dominant offensive player for two and a half years.

“He entertained our fans. He competed at a very high level. He was tough as nails, and he was a big-time fourth-quarter guy. He brought a lot of electricity and excitement to the Garden.”

Thomas started last season on the injured list with a bum hip, then underwent surgery on the hip to end his season early. In between, he played some games for the Cavaliers and ultimately, the Lakers.

Prior to last season, Thomas led the Eastern Conference in scoring at 28.9 points per game as Celtic. But he clearly wasn’t the same player after suffering the hip injury during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavs in 2017.

Thomas, 29, averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 assists in 32 total games this past season.